The free wifi offering will target short term users

Finnish handset vendor Nokia has teamed up with wifi network operator Spectrum Interactive and location based media firm Selective Media, to trial a free wifi offering on the streets of London, UK.

The trial project, which runs from Tuesday until the end of 2011, takes advantage of 26 London hot spot locations from Spectrum Interactive’s portfolio of real estate, most of which will be based on payphone boxes.

The two-month trial is intended to assess both the demand for free wifi access and the browsing behaviour of consumers using the service across the British capital. The hotspots are typically fed by a 20Mbps DSL backhaul link, while individual users will allowed a 1Mbps connection in order to keep bandwidth hogging down.

Usage will be unrestricted across devices, browsers and apps, with users confirming a terms and conditions check box before access is granted. Following a successful trial, Nokia said plans are in place for a large-scale rollout across London from early 2012.

Simon Alberga, executive chairman of Spectrum Interactive, said the venture was targeting short stay users in high footfall locations, like those just wanting to check Facebook, their email or a mapping application. These types of use cases are becoming more popular on mid-range devices and wifi only tablets, and are no longer restricted to high end smartphones.

Out of the 77 million or so mobile subscriptions in the UK at the end of September, just over 38 million of those are prepay subscriptions, which would make them less likely to be heavy data users.

The question remains as to how this initiative is monetised, which is where Chris Bull, founder of Selective Media, comes in, saying that mobile advertising is on the agenda. Presumably the reason for allowing open access to start with would allow Selective to build up an idea of who is using the service and what they’re using it for. The firm would then be able to use its ad network to serve appropriate ads to popular sites. Pre roll advertising at the wifi login stage is also an option according to the company’s web site.


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